Winding along small Lake District roads, just minutes from the motorway, we turned a corner and caught our first glimpse of Ullswater. Sunshine danced across the surface of the majestic lake surrounded by wooded valleys and craggy russet peaks. On a small promontory, a stone boat-house jutted out towards the water. ‘It’s breathtaking!’gasped my eldest son, looking up from his book.
A few more bends in the road led us to our destination, Another Place: an elegant white hotel situated on Ullswater’s shore. The lakeside sister of cult Cornish hotel, Watergate Bay, Another Place strikes a perfect balance between informality and indulgence: this is a luxury hotel for those who enjoy having muddy wellies and windswept hair.
Previously the Ramsbeck Country House Hotel, the elegant Georgian building has been sympa-thetically refurbished and extended so that it feels simultaneously spacious and cosy. The lake, Ullswater, is central to everything. Bedrooms have stunning lake views and the swimming pool ends in a wall of glass so that you feel you are swimming right up to the shore.
Throughout the hotel, there is a synergy between the landscape outside and the details inside. The shelves in the grand library are piled with books about walking, swimming and fishing. Sheepskins, thrown over the back of chairs, are a visual and a literal echo of the sheep dotted across the hills. Each bedroom is equipped with a thermos flask that can be filled with coffee at reception, allowing you to take its warmth with you out into the weather.
In the daytime, the lake was our playground. In the evening, our children delighted in spending time at Kids’ Club, with a wonderful team of nannies. Kind and efficient, like Mary Poppins clad in Breton stripes, they took care of our boys leaving us free to have a leisurely supper and even a quiet moment in the library with a book.
Another Place prides itself on ‘active relaxation’, providing a refuge from which to explore the wild beauty of the lakes. Throughout our stay, staff were friendly and helpful: relaxed yet attentive. Re-turning from an autumnal ramble to a hot supper is a timeless pleasure. When I get the chance to fold myself into crisp white bed linen after a day in the cold, clean air, there’s no place I’d rather be.
My Swallows & Amazons obsessed children couldn’t wait to get out onto the lake. Whilst Another Place does offer sailing lessons, we opted to explore Ullswater with a morning’s canoeing. Our instructor Chris showed us how to strap two canoes together to make a family catamaran, and we were soon away. The best way to see the lake is undoubtedly from the water, and Chris was a knowledgeable guide. We paddled to Pooley Bridge to see the site of the old stone bridge that was destroyed by Storm Desmond. On our way back, Chris had planned all manner of adventures and games with which to keep even the smallest member of our crew entertained.
Later in the day, in order to visit the far end of Ullswater, we took a trip on Lady of the Lake, an Ullswater Steamer that stops off at piers all around the lake. We took a round the lake trip and as my eldest tried to spot locations from the recent Swallows and Amazons film (filmed in part around Ullswater), we all tucked in to the obligatory Kendal Mint Cake, washed down with warm-ing hot chocolate.
The hotel’s Swim Club has a range of activities on offer. I relished my quiet morning swim in the turquoise pool and deeply regret not having had the time for a wild swim in the lake itself. Having been active all weekend, I later indulged in some relaxation with a wonderful massage, whilst the rest of the family splashed about in the pool.
On our way home, we stopped off at Lowther Castle, a romantic ruin with a particular melancholy beauty. This fairytale castle has extensive grounds with views across the surrounding countryside and, hidden away in a wood, the ‘Lost Castle’- a fantastic adventure play area. My children unanimously declared it to be the ‘best adventure playground ever’, in their not inconsiderable experience. Climbing, swinging, zipping and sliding left them happily exhausted- the perfect preparation for a quiet drive home.
Days of watery adventures and exploring are certainly a good way to build up an appetite. An-other Place has a number of excellent options when it comes to food. The children were utterly thrilled with the Kids’ Tea, served early in the Ramsbeck Restaurant. The buffet-style nursery food was a huge hit, not least because seconds, and even thirds, were actively encouraged. My youngest’s allergies were attentively catered for, with the chef even providing his exact choice of dairy-free milk, to the boy’s delight.
Thanks to Kids Club, my husband and I were able to have civilised adult suppers. The first night, we ate in the relaxed bar-style area, the Living Space, and the second we sat down for a full three course meal in the Rampsbeck Restaurant. The food was delicious- freshly prepared, locally in-spired, unfussy and full of flavour.
Breakfasts at Another Place will go down in family legend due to the row of cast iron self-service waffle machines. Nothing sets you up for a day on the lake better than hot coffee and hot waffles, and the children were delighted at the opportunity to make their breakfasts themselves.
Nearby Pooley Bridge has an abundance of food choices, from the Crown Inn to Granny Dow-bekins riverside tearooms. We picked up a hearty picnic from the Chestnut House shop and off licence, with a few slabs of Kendal Mint Cake slipped into my handbag to keep us going once the breakfast waffles were just a distant memory.
A trip to Ullswater wouldn’t be complete without some Sticky Toffee Pudding. The Sharrow Bay Hotel is said to be where the traditional British pudding originated from. For those who fancy a pudding pilgrimage, the Sharrow Bay restaurant is open to non-residents, as long as they don’t bring children. We ate our sticky toffee pudding across the water at the Rampsbeck Restaurant: a dark delight burnished with golden sauce, eaten as the sun went down on a magical weekend at Another Place.
Images by Laura Pashby